(Or Is it too late?)
Wanting things to be different from the way that they are probably starts very early in life. Melanie Klein saw the young baby coping with anxiety and frustration by splitting, and then bringing good and bad together in what she called the Depressive Position. She saw this dynamic continuing throughout developmental life. The awareness that our needs may not be met immediately or at all can arouse reactions of anger but underlying that are feelings of grief and loss which need to be acknowledged and accepted before we can work with the reality of what is achievable and what is not. Klein sees maturity in bringing the good and bad object together allowing for an internal life in which conflicts can be experienced without having to destroy one another.
Roberto Gonzales describes the deep pain which often remains even when people have worked on themselves for years, and which contributes to attempts to change others or ourselves which often end in frustration. He describes reaching a spaciousness inside where there is full acceptance of what is. In this place there is no pressure to change. Here we can feel true empathy towards ourselves and others without the need for change. In order to reach this spaciousness there is a period of mourning to go through which corresponds to the 'Gap' between where we are and where we want to be, acknowledging unmet needs, and grieving for possibilities which have not yet, or cannot materialise. This recognition and the struggle to accept, can lead to feelings of helplessness and impotence, depths of despair and unbearable loss and dread which lie deep in the soul, possibly underlying severe depression and suicide. Our judgemental feelings towards self and others, appear to offer a way out by separating the good and the bad, but in fact contribute to our suffering. In this spacious field the only value is in what is, experienced fully in this moment, not experienced as a fact, but as a feeling, only subjectively verifiable. Self empathy together with empathic support from others, can allow this process to continue to a more wholistic appreciation of the self. For Roberto this is the recognition of the beauty of the needs themselves. Through allowing the process of mourning our unmet needs with compassion, we free ourselves from the constrictions which come through blame and fear, and become empowered to find ways to fulfill them.
For my teacher Maharaji, and many others like Eckhart Tolle, coming into the 'moment called Now' is the only place where reality truly exists. It is the marriage of the finite and the infinite, allowing space for the Unknown to enter. This is the beginning of radical transformation. With that understanding, reality is beyond concepts and therefore cannot be grasped by the mind, only experienced when we can lay aside the need for the security of knowing, based on the past or the future, which is so much part of our culture. To do so runs the risk of causing confusion and pain. Accepting our inability to know, we can become receptive, tuned in to resonances beyond our everyday world. With compassion and self empathy, fear of the unknown can be transformed into trust and gratitude.
This dynamic can be seen at the individual and the global level. The inability of the human race as a whole to confront its own destructive tendencies may arise from reluctance to face the inevitable grief and loss implicit in acknowledging what we have done to this beautiful planet, where we are headed and the risk of despair that is entailed. For Joanna Macy awareness of this 'pain for the world' is an essential stage in the Great Turning, the process of reconnecting to ourselves, each-other, and the natural world.